Sunday's Sermon

 

"My King?"

 by Wayne L. Derber, Pastor

April 14, 2019 - Palm/Passion Sunday - C

Sermon text: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”  – Luke 19:38

 

A king?

This was the question.

Was Jesus a king?

 

This question was not hard to answer on that first Palm Sunday.

Riding a donkey into the capital city of Jerusalem

            was the usual way in which the kings of Bible times

                  celebrated the first day of their reign.

So here was Jesus…

      riding on a donkey…

            coming into Jerusalem…

                  surrounded by crowds of loyal followers…

                        cheered by the people.

 

Some of the people put their coats in the path before him.

Some of them waved palm branches.

Some of them sang hymns.

And some of them shouted:

      “Blessed is the king… who comes in the name of the Lord!”

 

Was Jesus a king?

It was easy to answer that question on that first Palm Sunday.

Yes, of course, he was a king!

Jesus was going to be a king

            much like all the other kings the people had ever known.

Jesus was going to live in a palace.

He would have the best of clothes

            and the finest of foods.

He would be surrounded by a royal court…

            have power and authority…

                  make laws to help the people.

He would use the military might of his soldiers

            to fight against the people’s enemies.

 

Was Jesus a king?

The answer seemed obvious on that first Palm Sunday.

“Blessed is the king … who comes in the name of the Lord!”

 

However, Palm Sunday turned into Maundy Thursday

                        and then into Good Friday.

Jesus didn’t seem like a king

            when he agonized in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane…

            when Judas betrayed him with a kiss…

            when his followers quickly deserted him…

            when the soldiers arrested him…

            when he was condemned by the religious leaders…

            when the crowd demanded that he be crucified…

            when Pilate condemned him to death…

            and when he carried his cross through the streets of Jerusalem…

Jesus sure didn’t seem like a king

            as he hung dying on the cross.

Jesus didn’t seem anything like a king…

 

As the events of the week unfolded,

            Jesus seemed like anything except a king.

He seemed more like a common criminal.

 

So the question remains – was Jesus a king?

That was the question that Pilate wanted answered as well.

He asked Jesus: “‘Are you the king of the Jews?’

      Jesus answered…

            ‘My kingdom is not from this world.

            If my kingdom were from this world,

                  my followers would be fighting

                        to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.

            But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’

      Pilate asked him,

            ‘So you are a king?’

      Jesus answered,

            ‘You say that I am a king.

            For this I was born, and for this I came into the world…’” (John 18:33-37)

 

Pilate seemed quite uncertain.

Jesus certainly did not seem like a king at all.

Yet this is what Jesus claimed to be.

 

But still, Pilate gave in to the crowd’s demands

            that Jesus be crucified.

Pilate ordered that a sign be placed on the cross

            above the head of Jesus –

      a sign that read: “The King of the Jews.”

 

Some of the religious leaders objected to the sign.

They came to Pilate urging him:

            “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’

                  but ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’”

Pilate answered:

      “What I have written I have written” (John 19:21-22).

 

So it was.

The sign above his head as he was crucified, read:

            “The King of the Jews.”

 

That Jesus claimed to be a king seemed laughable to the soldiers.

They ridiculed Jesus and made fun of him.

“So, Jesus, you’re a king?

      If you’re a king, you need fine clothes –

            let’s put this purple robe on you.

      If you’re a king, you need a scepter to rule with –

            let’s put this reed in your hand.

      If you’re a king, you need a crown to wear –

            let’s put this crown of thorns on your head.

      Now you are a king, Jesus!

      You have a robe!...

                  a scepter!...

                        a crown!”

The Bible tells us that mocking him,

      the soldiers knelt before Jesus and jeered:

            “Hail, King of the Jews!”

 

The soldiers certainly seemed right.

Jesus certainly did not seem like a king at all.

 

We might well ask of the Jesus the same question posed by Pilate:

      “Are you the king?”

The answer on the first Palm Sunday seemed to be “Yes.”

The answer on the first Good Friday seemed to be “No.”

 

No doubt, some of those who hailed Jesus as their king

            on Palm Sunday

      soon turned against him

            and were in the crowd who demanded of Pilate:

                  “Crucify him!  Crucify him!”

They were wrong, of course.

 

Jesus had come to be their king,

      but not in the traditional understanding

            of what a king should be.

 

They wanted Jesus to be a king of power,

            but he was a king of meekness.

They wanted Jesus to be a king of the earth,

            but he was a king of heaven.

They wanted Jesus to be a king of authority,

            but he was a king of love.

They wanted Jesus to be a king of success,

            but he was a king of suffering.

They wanted Jesus to be a king to make them superior to others,

            but he was a king who came to be a servant.

They wanted Jesus to be a king who would defeat their enemies,

            but he was king who loved even his enemies.

 

Jesus was a king.

But he was a much different king than the people expected.

Our Bible readings for today tell us about the nature

            of this one we hail as king.

 

Our Old Testament reading from the prophet Isaiah

            describes Jesus with the words:

      “The Lord God has opened my ear,

            and I was not rebellious,

                  I did not turn backward.

      I gave my back to those who struck me,

            and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;

      I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.

      The Lord God helps me;

            therefore I have not been disgraced.”

 

And in our New Testament reading for today,

                  the Apostle Paul described our Lord this way:

      “…Christ Jesus,

                  though he was in the form of God,

            did not regard equality with God

                  as something to be exploited,

            but emptied himself,

                  taking the form of a slave,

                        being born in human likeness.

      And being found in human form,

            he humbled himself

                  and became obedient to the point of death –

                        even death on a cross.”

 

The question is easy to answer when life is good.

When our lives seem as good as Palm Sunday

            it is easy to say that Jesus is our King.

 

But when our lives get as dark and as painful as Good Friday,

            is is not so easy to say that at all.

 

It is not easy to say that Jesus is our king,

            when friends turn against us.

It is not easy to say that Jesus is our king,

            when the future seems bleak.

It is not easy to say that Jesus is our king

            when we are looked down upon and ridiculed.

It is not easy to say that Jesus is our king

            when we are treated unjustly.

It is not easy to say that Jesus is our king

            when we are unfairly condemned by others.

It is not easy to say that Jesus is our king

            when our bodies are weak or racked with pain.

It is not easy to say that Jesus is our king

            when we are grieving the death of a loved one.

 

Was Jesus a king?

More important than that, was Jesus the king?

And even more important than that

      is the question each of us must answer:

            “Is Jesus my king?”

 

Is Jesus the one that I seek to obey?

Is Jesus the one that I serve with all my heart?

Is Jesus the one that I trust to take care of me?

Is Jesus the one to whom I offer my all?

Is Jesus the one to whom I pledge my allegiance?

Is Jesus the one to whom I bow down in worship?

Is Jesus the one that I love most of all?

 

Is Jesus… my King?

 

            Amen.